Hola Madrid – Dos semanas de tenis!

THIS WEEK: All eyes are on Madrid, minus the Smurf clay. Last year, both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were eliminated early on the experimental blue surface, and both threatened to boycott the event if the blue returned. No surprise…the Mutua Open is back to the traditional rust red. Rafa enters Madrid with another Barcelona title, earned April 28th with a win over Nicolas Almagro. The previous weekend, he was finally dethroned in Monte Carlo by Nole. Madrid will also feature Roger Federer’s first 2013 appearance on clay, his first tournament since a quarterfinal loss to Nadal at Indian Wells. Juan Martin del Potro will not be in the Madrid draw, withdrawing over the weekend due to a viral infection. Delpo only has one match win since his loss to Rafa in the Indian Wells final.

A mandatory Masters event for the fellas, Madrid is also a mandatory Premier event for the ladies. In fact, it’s the first Premier event of 2013 that will feature Serena, Maria AND Vika. Serena’s still the top-ranked player on tour, but Sharapova comes into the event with a title defense in Stuttgart. As the #3 seed, Vika will be in Serena’s half of the draw, her first test on a rolled ankle that took her out of Indian Wells. Should she plow through the field, she’ll have to face the younger Williams to earn a spot in the final. Meanwhile, Venus Williams withdrew from the Madrid Open before her match on Sunday, citing back trouble; while Caroline Wozniacki was ousted in the first round by Yaroslava Shvedova 3-6, 4-6. Heads-up for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova…now working exclusively with Martina Hingis, she brings heady confidence into Madrid after winning the title in Portugal over the weekend.

LAST WEEK: The guys played on clay in Portugal and Munich. The Portugal Open final featured David Ferrer (in as a wild card after losing in Barcelona’s first round) vs. Stan Wawrinka, and Stan played out of his mind. In the first 20-minutes, Wawrinka found himseslf up 5-0. He surrendered David’s next service game then took the set 6-1. In the second, Stan finally broke Ferrer at 4-all, and then won the title 6-4. Total match time…just 64-minutes. It’s Stan’s fourth career title, and he’ll head into Madrid as the #15 seed – Ferrer the 4th seed.

In Munich, it was an all German final for the first time in 48-years with Tommy Haas and Phillip Kohlschreiber – who needed a 3rd set tie-break to advance past the semifinals over another German, Daniel Brands. On a mission all week, Tommy won the title 6-3, 7-6(3)…his 14th career ATP Tour trophy. This week one year ago, Tommy was ranked #134 in the world. After Sunday’s victory, at 35-years-old, he’s ranked #13; a steep climb in the injury-inspired ranking roller-coaster that has defined his career.

The ladies played exclusively with the guys in Portugal last week, where Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova overcame a 0-6 set in the semifinals to advance and defeat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the final 7-5, 6-2. Since Miami in March, Nastia’s working solely with the great Martina Hingis, and her growing confidence is clear on the court and with her results.

TWO WEEKS AGO: Is there any tennis player more amazing than Rafael Nadal? After his loss to Djokovic in the Monte Carlo final, he put together another incredible week of play in Barcelona, winning his 8th title there in the past nine years. Countryman Nicolas Almagro was Rafa’s unfortunate opponent in the final, overpowered 6-4, 6-3. That was Nadal’s 39th consecutive match win in Barcelona – just one of many clay surfaces he’s owned for nearly a decade.

Oddly enough, during the same week in Bucharest – the man who upset a hobbled Rafa in Wimbledon’s second round last year, Lukas Rosol took the title over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-2. His first ATP-title, Lukas dedicated the win to his father, who had passed away just 10 days prior.

Defending French Open Champion Maria Sharapova finished April on a high note, on clay…winning another Porsche in Stuttgart. She came into the Premier event  as the #1-seed and defending champion, and after going three-sets in her first three matches, handled the #2-seed Li Na with ease in the final 6-4, 6-3. It was Maria’s 29th WTA title and her 16th consecutive clay court win – extending through last year’s win in Rome, prior to the 2012 French Open. American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands had a great week in Stuttgart, making it all the way to the semifinals where she lost to Li Na in straight sets.

Remaining Clay Schedule:

  • This week: (ATP/WTA) Madrid
  • Next week: (ATP/WTA) Rome
  • Two weeks: (ATP) Dusseldorf and Nice; (WTA) Strasbourg and Brussels
  • Monday, May 27th: (Grand Slam) Roland Garros begins